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South West Bedfordshire Constituency

Volume 545: debated on Monday 14 May 2012

The Petition of residents of Bedfordshire,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the proposed boundary changes put forward by the Boundary Commission for England in relation to Dunstable as the Petitioners believe that the North Luton area, which the Boundary Commission proposes to combine with Dunstable, is a different community from Dunstable with different social challenges, which are very different from those of a historic market town.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons not approve any Order in Council giving effect to changes proposed by the Boundary Commission in relation to Dunstable that would combine Dunstable with North Luton.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Selous, Official Report, 27 March 2012; Vol. 542, c. 1440.]

[P001015]

Observations from the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office:

There is at present a significant difference between the sizes of many parliamentary constituencies. This has the effect of making some people’s votes count more than others, depending on where they live. This situation is not fair to many electors and in 2010 the Government introduced the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies (PVSC) Bill into Parliament to address this issue. The PVSC Bill received Royal Assent on 16 February 2011 and is now an Act of Parliament.

The PVSC Act 2011 provides for more equal sized constituencies, as well as for a smaller House of Commons (600 seats rather than the current 650). In the Act, all constituencies (other than a very limited number of exceptions) are to be within 95% to 105% of a single United Kingdom electoral quota. At this review, the Boundary Commissions when deciding boundaries may also take account of certain other factors, including: special geographical considerations, including the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency; local government boundaries as at 6 May 2010; the boundaries of existing constituencies; and any local ties that would be broken by changes in constituencies. However, these factors are subject to the overriding principle of equality in constituency size.

As a result of the reforms contained in the Act, votes will be more equal in weight throughout the UK, and each nation will have a share of the seats in the Commons that is broadly in proportion to its share of the UK electorate.

The Boundary Commission for England published its initial proposals for the new parliamentary constituencies on 13 September 2011. Between 13 September and 5 December 2011, the Commission consulted on its initial proposals for the new parliamentary constituencies and have now finished a consultation on the representations they received on their initial proposals published last autumn. All representations received from both consultations will now be considered by the Commission with a view to publishing a revised set of proposals later this year.

I have noted the comments in relation to Dunstable. However, it is for the independent Boundary Commissions to make recommendations, weighing the various factors in legislation, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment as a Government Minister on the merits of individual cases. The PVSC Act requires the Boundary Commission for England to complete the boundary review and submit its report to the Government by October 2013. The legislation giving effect to the Boundary Commission’s final recommendations must be debated and approved by Parliament before it can come into effect.